Utah Business Staff

August 1, 2012

SEIDELMAN: One of the elephants in the room is the fact that we seem to lack the political will as it relates to moving education from being a public good to being a private good. And that speaks to a lot of the issues in terms of funding but, as the demography of our country changes, it also speaks to some really fundamental issues about access and affordability for students.

One of the other things that I wanted to mention is that higher ed is losing some of its relevance as it relates to this credentialing. And that’s why we see such a significant rise in what we call “badges,” where basically the private corporate sector is taking more and more of the responsibility in terms of developing in their individual workforce needs.

It would be interesting if there was a way to develop a metric around the extent to which a lot of the workforce is developing some of the skills that might be substituted for the credentialing that we provide as higher ed institutions that are coming through some of the emerging credentialing processes, like badges.

STEPHENS: I do appreciate the loftiness of the focus on higher demand, higher wage jobs, but I just wonder how many of you grew up poor? I did. My parents were teachers and we were poor. So as we’ve been talking about the lofty side of this, I’ve been thinking about people at the other end, and I think that we need to realize that sometimes we’re talking about improvement over generations.

As an example, we can have a poor mom who has no skills and can only get a job at the movie theater or fast-food joint, and who comes to an ATC or a college and gets a CNA, which is a high-demand, lower wage job—but for that mom to go from $7 an hour to $10 or $11 an hour is huge. And it’s important for that mom’s kids to see mom went back to school and now mom has a profession. Even though it might not be one that we’re all really excited about, for that family it makes a difference. And then it trickles down so that those kids realize that mom went to school, and maybe our life isn’t great but we’ve doubled our income.

So I think that when we get lofty, we also have to get real and meet people’s needs where their needs are and recognize that everybody’s needs are not going to be at those high-wage jobs, and we still have a responsibility to give something to the other people in areas where there is still demand.

TONKS: It’s critical that we take a look at the articulation. At Open High School, we take a look at what the students’ needs are, just like all of you do. We’re serving the needs of 21st century learners. These are the kids who have grown up with iPads and iPods. The student population that is now coming up through the ranks wants on-demand education. They are looking to leverage technology’s promise to improve education. We not only have the opportunity but also the responsibility to meet those demands.

You have this “Jimmy Neutron” generation that’s being educated sometimes in a Flintstones era community, and it’s just critical that we are able to leverage these students’ needs and their desires and their skill sets. At Open High School, access is huge. It’s online. So we provide the students with a laptop and they are able to take it with them and fit school around their schedules, as they do with many of your institutions.

We just formed a partnership with Weber State University for an online early access. It’s the first of its kind in the nation. Any student in the state of Utah now has access to early college courses through Weber State University and Open High School of Utah, and these students’ needs are being served through partnerships and collaborations between higher ed, public ed, business, and through leveraging the technology and innovation and getting the skills they are going to need to compete with the kids in China, India and Germany, not just the kid next door.

I want to wrap up by talking a little bit more about business and educational collaboration.
D. HARDMAN: I’d just like to make one comment on some of the issues with higher ed and funding. We’ve gone over four years now without really any kind of significant increase in funding for higher education for the state of Utah. But I am very, very impressed with our leadership in higher education—they have taken this incredible challenge and utilized resources that they’ve never used before and are able to serve significantly more students with less money. It’s the business model of the world that we do more with less, and we do it by being more efficient and learning opportunities for innovation. And we have seen a tremendous amount of growth and innovation. With the appropriate funding, I think they can do even better.

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